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Michael Belair (Class of 2016)

Day Division
My whole reason for going to law school was to help people. After my 1L year, I was lucky enough to land a summer internship at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission through the school’s Summer Fellowship Program. I worked with employers and employees mediating employment discrimination lawsuits almost every single day. While the work was rewarding and eye opening, I knew I wanted to get more out of what I was doing. I wanted the opportunity to represent people.

In the fall of my 2L year, I took the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic offered at New England Law. It was an excellent opportunity. As far as the seminar went, we were able to sit down and honestly talk about many issues affecting low income people and those who are unable to afford representation by counsel, and who must navigate the courts on their own. It was a vast departure from the Socratic case method that became all too familiar to all of us in our 1L year. While it took a while to warm up to having our own thoughts on issues again rather than just reciting rules of law, by the end of the seminar we were not only looking at issues legally, but from a larger global perspective.

The actual clinical work went hand-in-hand with the seminar. I chose a placement at the school’s in-house clinic, the Clinical Law Office, where I was supervised by a full-time member of the New England Law faculty. I was thrust directly into client meetings during my first few weeks in the clinic but had never counseled a client myself. Sitting down and talking with a client about their case and what they needed to get out of it to make their life better reminded me of why I wanted to be a lawyer. It allowed me to approach my work with a passion that I never had before and put the real life impact of the legal system into perspective.

After counseling came a pre-trial hearing. I had never been to court before other than to observe, and certainly never spoken in front of a judge. It was a great opportunity to get involved directly with the courts early on in my law school career. At the end of the day the case settled, but I still got to present the settlement agreement to the judge. Seeing the joy in my client’s face that the case was finally over was an incredible feeling.

In the end, I ended up continuing at the New England Law clinic during my 2L summer as well. There were only three of us there, so we ended up taking a lot more responsibility for many more cases. While many of the clinic’s cases are in the area of family law, the issues that came up range from custody to the disposition of property. I also got to work on Social Security cases and deal with the Social Security Administration as client representative.

In my third year, I took the Administrative Law Clinic and the Government Lawyer Clinic. The first had me working in the Office of the General Counsel of the Cambridge, Mass., Public Schools. The Government Lawyer Clinic has me working in the General Counsel’s office of the state Department of Developmental Services. These experiences are allowing me to learn much more about the practice of law from a variety of different perspectives.

Perhaps the most important and my favorite part of the work I did was helping people who otherwise may not have had assistance. Legal services are not cheap, and most people who need them cannot afford them. Knowing every day that I was helping people who would otherwise be lost in the complex legal system and would likely not be able to advocate for what they needed in life is easily the most rewarding experience I had in law school. All the while, I was able to gain knowledge of the law and of legal practice.

(March 2016)